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Use of Carbon Fiber in Architecture

Carbon fiber is one of the newest materials in the architecture field. According to the article by Matt Alderton, carbon fiber composite is “one of the most promising composites for the future of buildings”. Carbon fiber is a polymer consisting of long, thin threads of carbon material infused together. Carbon fiber is a very light but strong material. This composite is much lighter than steel and according to the article by Matt Alderton, it is “five times stronger than steel, and twice as stiff.”. This material can be composed of fabric or shaped into a solid surface using molds. Carbon fiber has many applications and can replace many materials, but I will concentrate on carbon fiber composite replacing steel in construction and building structure.


One of the negative points of carbon fiber is the price of this material. Carbon fiber is more expensive than steel, concrete, and other reinforced materials. As mentioned in the article by Shetty Chetan, “if the average price of steel reinforcement is around USD7–10 per sq. ft., the average cost of carbon fiber installation would vary in the range of USD60–100 per sq. ft”. Budget is one of the top qualities developers look at in the materials and at this point, carbon fiber is losing. Although the price for carbon fiber is high, the future of this material is still looking bright. As mentioned before carbon fiber makes transportation of material much easier and doesn’t require special workforces to be installed, thus lowering the price of carbon fiber in the future will place on the top of the list of construction materials.

Carbon fiber by its self is exactly what it is called, a fiber, to make it strong and sturdy manufacturers add various polymer resins. Different resins provide different qualities for carbon fiber, resin can make it flexible, sturdy, strong, soft, structural, or decorative. There are many different resins used with carbon fiber. Each specific resigned serves a specific purpose. The use of resin with carbon fiber makes the material more harmful to the environment and makes it less sustainable, but according to the article by Jeff Sloan, the market is developing something called bio-resin. As mentioned in the article, “ bio-resin is developed primarily in an effort to use renewable agricultural feedstocks, bio-resins comprise, in varying proportions, polyol (from soybeans) and ethanol (from corn).”.


There is a new use for carbon fiber in construction appearing on the market recently. Carbon fiber reinforced polymer rebar is a new technology that replaces steel rebar. According to the Florida Dept. of Transportation, “ Cracks create paths for the agents of the aggressive environments to reach the reinforcing and/or prestressing steel and begin the corrosive oxidation process,”. Currently, composite rebar is primarily made with glass fiber (GFRP or GRP), but composites consisting of basalt (BFRP) or carbon fiber (CFRP) are also appearing on the market. These composites allow the rebar to withstand corrosion and remain strong.


PROS:

  • STRONG

  • DURABLE

  • STURDY

  • FLEXIBLE

  • CAN BE 3D PRINTED

  • OUTLIVES STEEL

  • UNLESS DAMAGED

  • EASY TO USE

  • DOESN’T REQUIRE SPECIFIC WORKFORCE

  • EASY TO HANDLE

  • EASY TO TRANSPORT

  • EASILY PACKAGED AND DELIVERED

  • CUTOMIZABLE

  • CAN BE SHAPED USING APPLICATION OR BY USING MOLDS

CONS:

  • EXPENSIVE (COMPARED TO STEEL)

  • STEEL=$7-$10/SQFT

  • CARBON FIBER= $60-$100/SQFT

  • REQUIRES OTHER COMPONENTS

  • RESIN

  • NOT VERY SUSTAINABLE

  • LEFT OVERS

  • TOXIC RESINS

  • USES A LOT OF ENERGY FOR THERMAL PROCESSES

  • CARBON FIBER= 183-286MJ/KG

  • STAINLESS STEEL= 56.7MJ/KG

  • ALUMINUM= 190-230MJ/KG

  • CONCRETE= 1.11MJ/KG

  • (MJ/KG= MEGAJOULS PER KILOGRAM





SOURCES:

  1. Alderton, Matt. “Will Carbon Fiber Revolutionize Architecture as Steel Did in the 19th Century?” ArchDaily, ArchDaily, 5 Mar. 2018, www.archdaily.com/890097/will-carbon-fiber-revolutionize-architecture-as-steel-did-in-the-19th-century.

  2. Brownell, Blaine. “Is Carbon Fiber All It Cracked Up to Be?” Architect Magazine, 25 Apr. 2019, www.architectmagazine.com/practice/is-carbon-fiber-all-it-cracked-up-to-be_o.

  3. Caulfield, John. “The World's First Building Made from Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Concrete Starts Construction in Germany.” Building Design + Construction, 4 June 2020, www.bdcnetwork.com/world%E2%80%99s-first-building-made-carbon-fiber-reinforced-concrete-starts-construction-germany.

  4. Gardiner, Ginger. “Composite Rebar for Future Infrastructure.” CompositesWorld, www.compositesworld.com/articles/composite-rebar-for-future-infrastructure-.

  5. Letvinov, Artem. “APPLYING CARBON FIBER IN BUILDING STRUCTURES.” Bachelor’s Thesis 2010, 2010.

  6. Publisher: Saimaa University of Applied Sciences Faculty of Technology

  7. Shetty, Chetan. “Is Carbon Fiber the Future of Construction Industry?” Aranca, Aranca, 16 Jan. 2019, www.aranca.com/knowledge-library/articles/business-research/is-carbon-fiber-the-future-of-construction-industry.

  8. Sloan, Jeff. “Materials & Processes: Composites Fibers and Resins.” CompositesWorld, www.compositesworld.com/articles/composites-101-fibers-and-resins.

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